About the Author
Roald Dahl, the best-loved of children's writers, was born in Wales of Norwegian parents. His books continue to be bestsellers, despite his death in 1990, and total UK sales are 55 million worldwide! Quentin Blake is one of the best-known and best-loved children's illustrators and it's impossible now to think of Roald Dahl's writings without imagining Quentin Blake's illustrations.
The usual Dahl ingredients, irreverent wit and comic invention liberally spiced with the mildly suggestive or outre , suit this stew to the popular (if unrefined) taste of adolescents of every age. The longer verses are fractured take-offs of traditional tales: Dick Whittington, Ali Baba, the Tortoise and the Hare, the Emperor's New Clothes, Aladdin, et al. These sometimes ramble, then run out of steam, stopping rather than ending. Short spoofs of nursery rhymes (``A Little Nut Tree,'' ``Hey, Diddle, Diddle,'' ``Mary, Mary'') have more bite, while the original pieces (``A Hand in the Bird,'' ``Physical Training,'' ``The Price of Debauchery'') are chiefly naughty. Blake's illustrations add flavor and balance. Deliciously zany, they defuse the bleak inhumanity of Dahl's vision. Dahl's stew has low nutritive value, but its pungent aroma might tempt the reluctant reader to indulge. A selection of Dahl's short stories was published by Knopf last month ( LJ 4/15/90).--Ed.-- Patricia Dooley, Univ. of Washington Lib. Sch., Seattle
Here are 15 less-than-clever rhyming parodies of classic children's stories and poems, including The Tortoise and the Hare , The Emp e r o r's New Clothes , Dick Whittington's Cat , Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves , Hansel and Gretel , etc. Most of Dahl's attempts at playful lasciviousness seem juvenile: ``As I was going to St. Ives / I met a man with seven wives / Said he, `I think it's much more fun / Than getting stuck with only one.' '' Several jokes fall flat on their British colloquialism: ``Hey diddle diddle / We're all on the fiddle,'' while others die of old age: ``knickers'' rhymed with ``vicar's.'' Blake, who also illustrated Dahl's Matilda , supplies messily frenzied line drawings that are far more amusing than the sophomoric verses they accompany. (Apr.)
Blake's jacket art for this book says it all: on a garbage can (or is it a stew pot?) from which waft images from the satirized stories within is a sign which reads ``Warning--Unsuitable for Small Readers.'' Never known for subtlety, good taste, or benevolence, Dahl is his usual disrespectful, misanthropic self in Rhyme Stew . In jaunty, often funny verse, he pokes fun at a dozen or so traditional rhymes and folktales. In ``Dick Whittington and His Cat,'' the cat convinces Dick to leave London: `` `Come home, my boy, without more fuss/ This lousy town's no place for us.' '' In ``Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,'' the action unfolds in London's Ritz Hotel to a scene of debauchery that makes the Arabian Nights seem almost chaste. Pen-and-ink drawings have the same ease to them as the verses--as if they were simply dashed off. A djinn in underpants and a naked king being fitted for invisible clothes are both particularly funny. However, it is not the raunchy longer pieces that make this a book not for children, but the shorter verses like ``A Hand in the Bird'' involving a vicar's hands in a maiden's knickers and ``Hot and Cold'' which begins: ``A woman who my mother knows/ Came in and took off all her clothes.'' Adolescents who enjoy pretty tasteless and aggressive humor will doubtless be amused by Dahl's cleverness. --Ann Stell, The Smithtown Library, NY